Pakistan president faces fresh challenge to authority
Pakistan's president, Asif Zardari, is facing another challenge to his authority from both his political opponents and his allies.
By Isambard Wilkinson in IslamabadLast Updated: 7:50AM GMT 17 Mar 2009
Mr Zardari was forced to make a climb-down and restore the chief justice after coming under intense pressure earlier this week.
But the threat to his control of the country has not ended. Senior members of his own Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) want him immediately to honour a pledge that he made to hand over key powers.
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Mr Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, stated on assuming office that he would transfer the balance of power from the presidency to the prime minister.
The pledge was made in accordance with a pact, known as the Charter of Democracy, which was drawn up by Bhutto and the head of the main opposition party, Nawaz Sharif, when the two leaders united against the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Raza Rabbani, a senior PPP member who resigned from the cabinet during last week’s political crisis, said that the balance of power must now be redressed.
“The Charter of Democracy, with reference to the transfer of power from the president to the prime minister, needs to be implemented now,” he said.
Mr Zardari hand-picked Yusuf Raza Gilani as prime minister has he saw him as an unthreatening, acceptable figure without a great power-base.
Mr Rabbani denied that Mr Zardari would oppose the move, saying that it was PPP policy “and Mr Zardari is co-chairman of the party”.
Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s former political secretary, also called upon Mr Zardari to relinquish major powers.
Gen Musharraf had conferred the powers on the president’s office to bolster his own position towards the end of his own eight-year rule.
They include the power to dismiss the government and to appoint the army chief.
“Bhutto’s will must be honoured,” said Mrs Khan. “It is the PPP’s principal that the parliament must be supreme. There is a need now to run the country through institutions and not individuals.
Mr Gilani, with whom it is rumoured Mr Zardari has had differences over the past several months, has pledged to implement the charter.
Mr Sharif has also called for power to be returned to parliament.